Is MQA "Bad For Music"? Linn Thinks It Is

Over on the Linn blogsite, Jim Collinson, Linn Product Ltd.'s Digital Marketer, argues that MQA is bad for music:
But with the MQA approach, we have the worst kind of middleman: solving a problem that has already been, or could be, solved by free and open alternatives, and yet expecting—no, demanding—to be paid again and again for contributing nothing of value. This is rentier capitalism, serving only to suck money out of the system, and stifling creativity in the process. It’s detrimental to society.
I'm going to stay out of this argument as I've already expressed my position on MQA. I will note two things: "rentier capitalism" strikes me as hyperbole unless of course comrades Jim and Linn work for free in some alternate reality, and the author admits that he's not going to "delve" into "whether it [MQA] has any merits from an audio performance point of view" so I have to wonder how he can conclude MQA contributes "nothing of value" seeing as the value to us is how MQA makes our music sound.

OK, one more point. How can you say "I’m not going to attempt to delve into the technical side of MQA" while also saying that MQA is "...solving a problem that has already been, or could be, solved by free and open alternatives"? Answer? You can't if you want to remain rational.

Give MQA Is Bad For Music. Here's Why a read and share your thoughts here.

Is MQA bad for music? (I don't think "music" really cares one way or another but I think you get the idea)

COMMENTS
bobflood's picture

will decide. But,as the saying goes "there is no free lunch".

rt66indierock's picture

The market is deciding on MQA. Can I download Foghat and Halestorm in the United States? Can I buy a DragonFly dac with MQA enabled? Is there any awareness among artists currently recording new music in the United States about MQA?

Music likes great performances and the few people who make good recordings. It doesn't care much about the format.

Fetuso's picture

I read the piece and I find his arguments compelling. I've been open minded about MQA, but I have also been suspicious due to the record companies involvement. I'm cynical about anything the record companies want to sell me, and I've seen MQA as their efforts to once again capitalize on their existing catalogue. Granted, we don't have to buy the recordings again, but getting us to sign up for a monthly subscription based on improved sound quality is easy money for the record companies. They have been selling "better sound" since the dawn of cd's. Then they sold us on it again during the remastering boom. The article's argument that this effort to capitalize on the exiting catalog will in the long run stifle the creation of new music is compelling. I also had never heard before that MQA requires licensing fees at all levels of the recording chain. I know the guys at Schiit Audio are resisting MQA, as well, so maybe we need to pay more attention to some of the more deleterious aspects of MQA.

bobflood's picture

MQA is likely the only way we will ever hear anything better than CD level new music from mainstream artists and it will be mostly from streaming sources. It is no surprise that the content owners are embracing MQA. It gives them a way to offer a high resolution experience without having to release the actual high resolution file. MQA is not DRM per se but it operates with just enough of an element of DRM to provide cover for the studios to provide a hi-res experience to those who want it and still be able to protect the "Crown Jewels".

rompolompo's picture

Not true. You can listen (buy and stream) to 24/96 files from Qobuz. No MQA what's-so-ever and you get the "Crown Jewels".

grantray's picture

Collinson should have brought it down a notch two. As it is, his Medium post (that's basically what it is, right?) comes off as ridiculously bombastic, while not bothering to source his claims on MQA's supply chain revenue model doesn't help make his case, regardless if the claims are (most likely) true. And the assumptions for who assumes ultimately cost in the various stages of recording to delivery is a bit silly. At least, for anybody with an inkling how CapEx and OpEx are used by businesses.

Timcognito's picture

Who reads this stuff? Who reads this blog? Who collects, downloads, rebuys higher resolution remastered copies of Hendrix, Sinatra, Decca Classical, Metallica? Who owns hundreds of physical copies of music. Answer, “Audiophiles”, aka old(er) guys mostly who’s love for music is equaled only by their love for the hardware that plays it. Most of the dialog on the topic of MQA is from this ilk, associated industry people, blogs and magazines. I have a modest collection of 700-800 CDs and half that many LPs and my 22-year-old son has maybe 30 CDs and 20 LPs. Is it because he’s just getting started with his collection? No, he’s downloaded tens of hundreds of songs and a few “albums” the clear majority in mp3 format, all on his phone and computer. He never reads about high resolution, he could care less and he doesn’t have or pay for TV either. I have maybe 40 downloads, (A brief break from my “rant” to thank Michael Lavorgna and others for this blog and those who took the time to post Lovely Recordings along with others helping redefine myself as an audiophile, from once a luddite audiophile), 40 DLs and counting, Roon, some streaming, and internet radio with broadcast in car only.
Do you really think MQA is trying to market to audiophiles? How much Sinatra can the big labels sell all over again, anyway? It can’t be that big of a market and guess what, these MQA juiced up recordings are not for sale anyway. In the meantime, baby boomer audiophiles continue to buy hardware to make the existing recordings sound good. The desire for MQA is there. People like me are now wondering how I will play my collection of music with MQA. The MQA streaming thing is a legitimate way to reestablish a subscription market and, if I believe Mr. Collison’s article, MQA sees the primary customer as the recording industry not the artist or the consumer. How will this small market for high quality oldies by Warner and others morph in something huge if most people new and old store their own music, many treasuring the process of finding and acquiring it. What good is super quality high resolution tiny files if I can’t put them on my phone, watch, computer or NAS. Bob Stuart has stated that MQA will improve the sound of any digital file and make it much smaller, and that the meta data of how it was recorded is on most CDs or once converted to MQA will be known. So why no end to end hardware and/or software to play CDs and shrink them to store them digitally from and in one’s own music collection? Why no MQA downloads for sale? According to Mr. Collison, the answer is “follow the money”. Further, I don’t see how the promise of super high quality and more storage potential drives major changes to the marketing and distribution of music without local media storage and management given conventional, or even new approaches to acquiring and playing it, not unless new music doesn’t exist without subscription. Is MQA good enough to drive that?

lamusique's picture

I am about in your age group and have about as much if not a little bit more in LPs and CDs format.
The big problem, and everyone should really know is that no matter what is going to happen over the net,
to own and listen to real physical format will always surpass any of your down loads.
get yourself a good turntable or good cd player and the magic will happen, and the joy to look through your collection of whatever format you have and you want to listen to

jhanken's picture

I think that non-audiophiles can't be bothered to know what MQA is, pay extra for the hardware, etc. I think it is for the more technophile audiophiles among us.

Timcognito's picture

But it is targeted to increase the streaming industry i.e., subscription service. You have to be connected to the net to use it. It would be straight forward to have an at home hardware or software solution for music collectors, to enhance and store their exiting digital collections with new titles offered for sale. Not as good as the "authenticated" for your existing but much better quality and much smaller file size(more on your phone)if I am to believe MQA proponents. Why are there no downloads?

jhanken's picture

It is mysterious why we haven't seen more, perhaps it will take a while for the production chain to catch up to the processes required.

PeterMusic's picture

I don't have MQA, and as a Yggdrasil owner with a large library and no interest in streaming, I don't expect to jump on the bandwagon quickly. But the negativity expressed by critics who refuse to even give MQA a chance really bums me out. If Linn wants to try it, and then say no thanks, that's cool. But to write a piece without reflecting on sound quality is just plain wrong. We should appreciate Meridian, Linn and the many others who are investing every day to bring us better sounding music.

rt66indierock's picture

Let’s look at few things. I can’t test MQA because most of my reference albums are not on Warner they are on Sony and Universal. I’ll take a flyer on a DragonFly Red with MQA software when I can purchase MQA downloads available in Europe. Until then I can’t “reflect” on MQA sound quality because there is no music to test.

The Audio Tool's picture

So what's up with Jim and his "spin" on MQA. I say spin, because I see very little based on fact. I must say it is very eloquent writing of which I am envious. Putting sound and technology aside, which is the crazy theme of this rant, what part of maintaining the status quo is going to help you reach out to a greater audience and bring them to your vast knowledge of how to best handle a digital file? Does screaming at each other, yes a lot of Jim's article could have been in caps as he rants about ideas and past formats, while extrapolating how MQA is paid from the sky help anyone? To me, Jim is assuming the model of greed that drove us into this corner where Apple owns the download chain and Walmart the physical disc supply chain. This current situation sucks for the audiophile world. Does MQA answer these problem, who knows, only time will tell that one. MQA CAN STREAM TO MOBILE DEVICES. How many phone users listen to MP3s every day? Can we safely say Millions? How many listen to a Linn system in that same time? So Linn and Jim, don't buy the necessary chip set and redesign you DACs to accommodate MQA, the world in general won't care, but at least know that as seasoned audiophiles understand, if you had come up with the idea at Linn we all know you would be touting it as the next answer from God and I am sure you would not be giving it away in freeware. See you at the next audio show where we will have, OMG, 5000 people to wander the halls and experience yet another LP or Reel to Reel or CD or Hi-Rez file that took 20 minutes to download at a cost. As a marketer perhaps you should ask the marketing question of what happens if you don't embrace MQA vs. what happens if you do and don't let your frugality get in the way...dream big!

goodfellas27's picture

I would love for Jim to explain how come I am seeing MQA tracks already in Bandcamp. So much for negatively affecting small time artist.

https://davidelias.bandcamp.com/album/mqa-track-sampler-any-player-works...

The Audio Tool's picture

That is awesome. Thanks for sharing!

rompolompo's picture

David Elias is a gimmick. When DSD came out, he was one of the first to embrace the format. Now is is all about MQA.

goodfellas27's picture

gimmick or not the point his that independent artist are also using MQA muting Jim's argument.

jhanken's picture

I think David Elias does the industry a great service by embracing new formats, giving others an opportunity to evalute, supporting the democratization of ideas such as, "this format might be a better way for us to go"

notung's picture

How can this be? magic? 99,99% of the scarce MQA available recordings come from remastering from PCM files or analog tapes, then converted to MQA and then again reconverted to PCM to be played in MQA software players and non-MQA compatible DACs, good deal, are we nuts? As rt66indierock says, music likes good performances and good recordings, format is (mostly) irrelevant. An advise, buy second hand good recordings for $3, rip them in FLAC and enjoy.

goodfellas27's picture

Uh? MQA = PCM
MQA is an encoding process of PCM fixing temporal blur. Give Tidal a try...

koblongata's picture

The most puzzling aspect of MQA to me is that they claim it is free from timing problems without the need of a clock. It is really some magic I can never understand...

goodfellas27's picture

I don't see the difference between MQA and something like Dolby Digital/DTS which content creator and end user end up paying them. I mean, how "expensive" is it if Audioquest includes it in their cheap $99 Dragonfly DACs? Linn sure didn't mind paying SONY/Phillips for CD license ha!
For me, I would love to see more support for the MQA encoder. People like Jim Collinson from Linn are just butthurt they didn't come up with it. Where does he get that MQA will negatively affect the independent artist? Has he seen Bandcamp? So much BS. Link below for the haters...

https://davidelias.bandcamp.com/album/mqa-track-sampler-any-player-works...

These people and their agenda....once you hear MQA fully unfolded deblur, you can't go back.

Anton's picture

It should be Jim Kollison!

No way anybody named Collison kan work for Linn!

solarophile's picture

Amazed at all the opinions on MQA out there! Really seems to be hitting a nerve. I honestly think it's just because of the way MQA has been advertised and all the questionable bits to it. For the technical people, the claims appear too far fetched and invites criticism and analysis. For the marketing people, MQA is yet another middleman selling their proprietary file "format" either worth defending if you have something to gain or criticizing if you're not getting a piece of the action.

All I can say since getting my Mytek Brooklyn 2 weeks ago is that MQA decoding sounds fine from Tidal. But it's not any different than the equivalent from HDtracks so I guess that's a good thing. Still not sure what the big deal is with this "deblurring" thing.

Bob Karp's picture

Yes, I would have to grant that if MQA achieves widespread acceptance, substantial income is likely headed to the company (MQA) and it’s founders. And many parties will have to pay - from music producers to distributors to consumers. That’s business. The question for me is, do they *deserve* to earn that income?? I have only heard Tidal Masters, partially “unfolded” to 24/96, streaming over the web in realtime. And I think it sounds gorgeous! I was happy with Tidal at “CD quality,” truly impressed that web-streaming could sound *that* good. But when I put on a CD or vinyl record of the same title, I usually had the feeling of, “Oh, yeah, web-streaming doesn’t sound *THAT* good.”

Tidal Masters IS better. Significantly better. I recently compared a high-quality, Japanese-made CD of Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark with the Tidal Master’s version. While they did not sound identical, I was very hard pressed to pick a winner. Yeah, perhaps the Tidal Masters version “should” sound better, but … we all know many reasons why this may or may not be true. My point is, the Tidal Masters version sounded SO good, I no longer had the feeling that my existing home version was hands-down better. That’s a big deal for me.

Now, if I had *bought* a hi-res version of the title and played it locally at home, would it have sounded even better? Maybe. Speaking for myself, I’m not going to do that. It’s too much work, and I love too much music. I can’t afford to buy hi-res versions of everything I want to listen to. I don’t have the time to ensure that I have all of that massive data backed-up four different ways so that I cannot lose it. (And most vendors do NOT let you re-download what you bought, after a month or so has past.) The subscription model of Tidal (at least at its current price level) is reasonable to me.

I feel MQA provides real value - even at the software-unfolded 24/96 level (though I am excited to try the next level, with hardware). Their technology allows web-streaming at a quality that, generally, equals or surpasses my home collection. I am NOT aware of another (free??) technology that will do this. Yes, I *have* downloaded some of Linn’s recordings - and they sound *wonderful*. But can you stream them in realtime over the web??

Jim Collinson is right, widespread adoption of MQA will mean that MQA collects revenue at many points in the chain. Useful, high-performance standards deservedly *earn* that revenue. And, business being business, of course the other players will try to squeeze the royalties to as small a level as possible. Personally, I hope that the negotiations go well. I think there should be enough pie to go around; and I really love this pie.

Anton's picture

I was struck by how nicely MQA treated Court and Spark, as well.

tulysses's picture

Sounds like they don't want to pay but also don't want to be perceived as not being on the cutting edge (rightly or wrongly) by customers. A tight spot, hence the hyperbole, with maybe some resentment mixed in. MQA may be revolutionary in impact or be a modern hdcd. Probably somewhere in between. Time will tell. Either way, the sun will rise tomorrow. In the meantime, relax Linn guys,,,

Malcolm02's picture

I don't know, but I will tell you one thing. I absolutely refuse to buy my music collection all over again in another format. I bought the LP, then the CD, then the remastered CD, then the hi-res digital download. Now I have the music I want in (for the most part) good sound. So what exactly is MQA bringing to the table?

Bob Karp's picture

I, too, have bought many of the same titles in multiple formats. For some of my favorites, several versions *within* multiple formats. Obsessive and a bit nuts? Guilty as charged; though, these are the obsessions of the audiophile. But I’m running out of space, I’m stressing the wife-acceptance-factor, and I’m not too keen on purchasing all of my old favorites, and my perpetually *growing* new favorites, in hi-res - or multiple versions of hi-res(!).

So how does MQA help? My appetite for music is too large, and my budget and storage capacity too small to keep *owning* everything I like. Yeah, I *did* prefer it this way in the past, but it really is not sustainable - at least for me. What MQA combined with Tidal (Tidal Masters) has shown me is that I can enjoy outstanding high-quality (hi-res) content from a subscription service. The catalogue isn’t vast yet, but I believe it will get there.

Will I renounce all physical media.? No. I’ve discovered things on Tidal that I enjoy so much that I’ve bought a “real” copy. But the balance is clearly shifting. Through Tidal I am enjoying a much larger spectrum of music than I ever have before; and unless I’m *really* thunderstruck by the recording, I don’t buy a copy. Truth be told, some of my purchases were motivated by titles that *were* available on Tidal and were then taken down :-(

What else does MQA give us? I have not been able to listen sufficiently to comment on the “temporal de-blurring,” though I have read extensively on this topic and it makes sense to me that this is a real benefit of the process. An undeniable benefit is the transmission of hi-res content via a file that is just marginally larger than a CD resolution file. Sure, everyone keeps saying that data storage and transmission keep getting cheaper and cheaper, so … who cares? Well, even in the face of increasing disc capacity and data transmission speeds, our “traditional” hi-res music files are f—ing enormous! And *most* of that enormous “data box” is empty! (We don’t need to *store* the sound of thermal noise in our music files.) MQA is a much more efficient way of capturing the *whole* of the hi-res music content, while nicely folding it into a remarkably compact package.

All of that said, I agree with you, I *don’t* plan to buy “MQA versions” of my favorite music to keep on a shelf - and I rather doubt that such versions will even be sold (though maybe). I’ll keep on enjoying my current library - and I’ll encode it for easy access, transport on portable devices, etc. I’ll enjoy new content (as well as old favorites), in hi-res if available, via a subscription service such as Tidal (Masters). Yeah, you have to pay the man. But at least so far, my subscription to Tidal is saving me money.

Anton's picture

I will go with MQA being a gimmick, as all attempts at higher fidelity are just gimmicks at the point they depart from listening directly to an artist or a master tape. Call it whatever you like, and listen as you please!

For me, MQA is a way to get higher fidelity while streaming.

It's a 'throwaway' as soon as something els comes along and all it cost me is 199 bucks for a meridian Explorer 2 (I would have streamed Tidal CD quality to begin with, so no added cost.)

This seems like an easy gimmick to be rid of if I decide to go another direction.

Therefore, MQA me all you like and I will decide over time!

jhanken's picture

The more intriguing part of the technology from a "story" standpoint is of course the digital origami, whereby the higher frequencies are compressed and coded below the noise floor of the more audible ranges, but the time filters are probably why I like the few Tidal MQA master files I have listened to through my Pioneer XPD-100r. I think there is something to fixing the "smear" we perceive with pre-ringing artifacts. It is certainly messing with the data, but if it is done artfully with a deep understanding of the physical and psychological aspects of how natural sounds becomes hearing, then let the perceptions of the listeners determine the value of it. I think they way they included digital authentication in the file is very creative, and I believe the motives are pure, i.e. to encourage greater care in the custody of the recordings in the future and better tools for consumers to know what they are getting. I think the whole complaint smacks of sour grapes to me, I think they should examine their motives with more intellectual honesty.

mskaye's picture

technological advancement. It's as simple as that. Like FORD would ever publicly tout a great feature on a GM car? Never! They would just try and copy it. LINN is probably just angry that they didn't think of it first. Yes, LINN. the company with endless upgrade paths that always get you to pay 5000 for a turntable in the first year and an additional 5000 in following years with all their bearing and motor and suspension choices. With that said, I'm not wholly convinced that MQA is the greatest advancement in digital sound. And without a doubt, it's ultimately all about money.

MilesFerg's picture

This is a company that feels justified in charging tens of thousands of dollars for an incremental improvement in sound. Their latest Linn Klimax DSM is $27,500 and you can upgrade your earlier one for a mere $6,160! Is that the problem; the improvement from MQA only cost pennies? Actually, for me it's been free so far since I have Tidal Hifi. If the Dragonfly can absorb the license fee, I'm sure they can squeeze it in a product costing hundreds of times more. Why is it only the kilobuck equipment manufacturers that are complaining about MQA anyway?
One of his major complaints is that the MQA light will light if it's an MQA track, but won't if it's not. Seriously?! That will bring doom to the music industry? If my MQA light doesn't come on then it must be crap and I'll leave the room?
He claims it will stifle creativity, but this doesn't hold. In fact, it's potentially the opposite. If record companies can again make money off of an existing asset (like when albums were converted to CD and sold again) they will have more money at little cost and have more to invest in riskier talent. This is the function of a cash cow in the product life-cycle! The cow can give milk again and fund creativity!
On solving a problem that could be solved by free and open alternatives. Where are these solutions? How do you get hi res files to only take up as much or less bandwidth than FLAC?
Lastly, I'll make a point he didn't mention. When I listen to an MQA track from Tidal on my computer with basic powered speakers, it sounds clearly better, even without an MQA DAC. Without changing any equipment or buying a hi res file, potentially millions will accidentally get exposed to the difference higher quality sound makes. They may even catch our bug and start looking for better audio equipment. Who knows, maybe one of them will win the lottery and even buy a Linn product.

Sal1950's picture

It's bad for everyone except those on the MQA money train.
If Meridian and the labels have their way, all the virgin "Crown Jewel" lossless non-MQA processed files will disappear to be replaced with the modern version of DRM and it's lossy files.
A sad day for the true audiophile indeed!

rustplane's picture

I found PS Audio's approach to better sound quality very educational in how they unlock the DSD layer from SACD's using the Sony chipset. It's different from what everyone else is doing including MQA which so far they do not support either.

readargos's picture

The streaming market generally has not been geared toward (nor driven by) sound quality. The promise of MQA is higher quality that is not bandwidth-intensive, so it works with existing infrastructure. However, there is no free lunch. Someone will ultimately bear the costs of MQA encoding - the hours needed to encode the catalogs of music labels, and the value of the encoding as intellectual property - and that seems to be the end-user. Will the average end-user pay more for higher quality, especially if it means a near-doubling of subscription costs for streaming services?

By and large, then, for music streaming services, MQA addresses a demand for higher sound quality that does not exist within the target market.

That still leaves the promise of higher sound quality, but that would once again be limited to demand within the niche audiophile market. In this sector, I think we're still talking digital downloads more than streaming, attuned listeners who want to curate their own libraries based on experience, tastes, and a lifetime interest in serious listening. I understand the value of streaming services for exposure to new music for those of us who share that passion, but how many audiophiles sit in the sweet spot and put the server on "swim" or let the streamer play?

Rather, streaming still seems more for background listening while doing other tasks, where quality is not the driving factor for enjoying the experience. By contrast, serious listening usually involves a conscious choice of listening material, as well as a conscious choice to sit in the sweet spot and listen intently.

If anything, I think the demand for higher sound quality by the average consumer is coming from a different segment of today's music market, namely the vinyl revival. For the streaming market, people listening on-the-go or via desktop systems, buying a better set of speakers or headphones is likely to yield a larger increase in sound quality than paying for MQA.

In this respect, MQA could be said to be at odds with itself. It is targeting the streaming community, but what kind of system (what quality level of playback medium) does it take to appreciate the difference? And will the targeted consumer have that level of quality playback, or aspire to it? A fairly consistent observation about MQA's improved quality is longer decays. To appreciate that requires playback that is high enough in resolution and low enough in noise (including environmental noise for headphone users who listen while commuting on the metro/subway).

So, tell me, who is MQA targeting? What is their market?

Bob Karp's picture

Have you listened to Tidal Masters? I think you are very right - the target market seems to be audiophile-type, critical listening consumers who will be *streaming* (at least some significant portion of) their music. In the past, a small market. But in the future … *I’m* there. As hi-res digital files become increasingly available, the choice is either to buy, download, store and back them up, or … stream them, as made possible by MQA. Now, I’m not ready to completely discontinue buying some physical media, whether LPs, CDs, or SACDs. And I do buy some hi-res downloads. But more and more, I’m streaming. I feel that Tidal Masters sounds awesome, and at least for me, it supports attentive listening just fine.

Additionally, the *explosion* of higher-end headphones now infiltrating the mass market may yet turn the “average listener” into a more sophisticated listener who can hear and appreciate the improved quality of better playback equipment and source material. With some luck, higher quality audio reproduction may even become more “trendy” in the mass market - and some folks will want it whether they actually care about it or not. Of course, *I* (and probably you) would like them to care about it, but the business end of this hobby/obsession will benefit greatly either way.

My music tastes keep broadening and the prospect of owning *everything* that I want to listen to … is overwhelming. I own a lot. And I’m sure I’ll keep buying more for some time. But high-quality streaming is manna from heaven.

Two of the big three (Warner and Universal) music labels are already encoding their catalogues. Rumor has it that “other services” (other than Tidal) will also be using these files. This IS coming.

EternalSounds's picture

So start with some demographics and business marketing strategy.

Generations

Of the four generational groups, Boomer and Gen-X have the most money to spend on audio/music equipment. Boomers have reached retirement have the most time to spend listening to music; Gen X is working and has less time. Millennials constitute large and growing numbers but generally are unwilling or are unable to spend at the audiophile level.

Boomers, like myself, along with deep-pocket music distributors (e.g. Universal, Warner, etc.) will "bear the costs" of the initial MQA encoding. With both time on their hands and life growing shorter, Boomers are in the market for the best sound quality but without the investment/cost of a limited hires library.

Like so many, we began with the Internet and Pandora which opened the doors wide to the large universe of musical genres and artists. Initially, I streamed into an LCD Sony TV which had/has above-average quality speakers. Next came MOG at 320k where improved SQ could easily be heard. At this point, I was 'hooked'.

A number of Boomer and Gen-X friends have mimicked me to this point. Some may soon take the next step. Finding musical enjoyment I was motivated to take it to the next level. I came by a pair of quality Martin Logan electrostatic speakers (cheap) and paired them with a Logitech Squeezebox Touch streamer and mid-quality DAC. My Boomer friends and neighbors were in awe.

You write, "For the streaming market, people listening on-the-go or via desktop systems, buying a better set of speakers or headphones is likely to yield a larger increase in sound quality than paying for MQA." That's certainly true for some Gen-X and a large portion of Millennials, but not the other millions of consumers with dollars ready to spend.

"...what kind of system (what quality level of playback medium) does it take to appreciate the difference?" Answer: With an AV budget of $5,000 or less, I can easily demonstrate a profound audio quality difference between MQA and non-MQA via TIDAL. Further, prices will continue to fall as more manufacturers recognize the value or are forced to implement MQA to stay competitive.

EternalSounds's picture
EternalSounds's picture

"...the value to us is how MQA makes our music sound." Agree!

A/B tested TIDAL Master on one of my streaming systems using the desktop TIDAL app, volume adjusted.

Metaphor: MQA is likely relevant only to those who have discerned a difference with sex...using/not using a condom.

v1m's picture

"rentier capitalism" strikes me as hyperbole unless of course comrades Jim and Linn work for free in some alternate reality

A valid point in itself, Michael, but when snarking it is only fair to take on the actual point.

Linn is criticizing the push for market dominance in format. That's what multi-leveled licensing of MQA across the recording and hardware industries -- call it a music tax -- may achieve for Meridian. It would be one thing if music needed fixing by this "solution." Then we could just say, "Sour grapes, Linn!" Yet it doesn't. The hoi polloi (who listen to mp3s) and the makers of high-end equipment (who listen to better) agree, for once, on something! What each group stands to lose in Meridian's market domination schemes is the collective damage done by rentiers: barriers to entry, price controls, stifled innovation and so on. Bad, bad, bad, this.

This is entirely distinct from the SQ debate, on which I have no quarrel with MQA at all. MQA is serviceably beautiful for on the go listening. Playing it through Tidal at this very moment; nobody is untainted in a corrupt system, haha.